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Recent media have been full of stories celebrating Katya Echazarreta traveling into space on Saturday, June 4, soaring up 66.5 miles (107 km) aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spaceship, New Shepard.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that 26-year-old electrical engineer and five other passengers launched their sub-orbital flight in West Texas at 6:26 a.m. PDT, reached the edge of space about five minutes later, were briefly treated to zero gravity and then softly parachuted to the ground, kicking up a large cloud of orange dust.
What made it so newsworthy?
NBC News ran an Associated Press story before the flight highlighting that Echazarreta would be the first Mexican-born woman and one of the youngest women to fly to space, Echazarreta was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and later moved to San Diego, CA. After the flight, ABC News Chicago blared, “Blue Origin launches first Mexican born woman into space.”
But the Mexican angle alone probably wasn’t enough. The story also likely gained traction because it was pushed by Space For Humanity, a Denver, CO-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that sponsored Echazarreta’s trip. Not mentioned in the breathless stories about the flight was that Space for Humanity paid Blue Origin to take Echazarreta on the flight.
And none of the stories noted how much Space for Humanity paid from donations to send Echazarreta on a spaceship owned by the second-wealthiest person in the world. An inquiry to Space For Humanity didn’t generate a response and Blue Origin has not divulged ticket prices.
Space For Humanity presents itself as an organization created to sponsor and send community leaders and change-makers to space. The non-profit anticipates crews will fly with Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, World View, and Space Perspective. “We train, educate and empower emerging leaders to ensure an inclusive future in space,” the organization says.
“When I started Space For Humanity, it was under the deep belief that the Overview Effect and giving people the opportunity to experience Space for themselves, would provide a powerful conduit for creating global change,” said the non-profit’s founder, Dylan Taylor.
Space For Humanity’s Board of Directors include Ryan Kriser, founder & CEO at Helios Capital, Sarah Cruddas, the host of Contact on Discovery Channel & Science Channel, Sangeet Kaur Sood, a space enthusiast and Andrew Aldrin, Director of the Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Institute of Technology.
The non-profit’s Board of Advisors is a large collection of space-related individuals, including current and former NASA astronauts, professors, entrepreneurs, the founder & Emeritus Chair at the SETI Institute and the Chairman of the Space Advisory Board for Virgin Galactic.
It’s not clear why all these people are overseeing the solicitation of public contributions for flights on the space ships of wealthy companies.
How much has been donated to Space for Humanity so it can send people up into space?
In its online Annual Report, it says 2021 revenue totaled $3.76 million, including tax deductible contributions of $1 million from Blue Origin, $1.24 million from Virgin Galactic X Omaze and $1.5 million from individuals.
But you’ll have to take Space For Humanity’s word. All non-profits are required by law to submit to the IRS an annual financial report called a Form 990. Space for Humanity doesn’t appear to have submitted one since 2019.